Staunton, June 1 – “Russians are certain that everything is bad but that things will become still worse,” Svobodnaya pressa commentator Olga Slabada says; or at least that is the conclusion one can draw from the results of recent polls conducted even by the pro-Kremlin VTsIOM agency.
She says that the agency’s most recent index of Russian assessments of the situation (wciom.ru/news/ratings/indeksy_soc_nastroenij/) shows that Russian attitudes plunged even more in April as the government began to introduce counter-pandemic measures than they had at the time of the pension reform (svpressa.ru/politic/article/266941/).
What is especially striking, Slabada continues, is that only one percent of Russians surveyed said the current situation gives them optimism about the future, and 72 percent of the sample said that the times ahead would be difficult, possibly even more difficult than those they now confront.
Judging from everything VTsIOM has reported, however, “Russians do not intend to confirm their depression into aggression.” Only one Russian in four says that he or she is ready to take part in protests, almost exactly the same percentage as the polling agency measured a year earlier.
Social psychologist Aleksey Roshchin says that the current pessimism of Russians reflects the fact that the country is now in stagnation and “people do not expect anything except bad.” But if new ideas and new people come into positions of authority, the situation could change quickly in a more positive direction.
“Attitudes will improve if fundamental changes in economic policy are announced,” he says. “For example, if the powers give the people money” as Aleksey Navalny has urged. “Or if new people with ne ambitious programs concerning universal employment should appear on the scene.”
Roshchin says the difference between how Russians feel about the state of the country where they are almost unanimously negative and how they feel about their own lives where they are far more optimistic reflects among other things the positive steps regional officials and private entrepreneurs have taken that people have made use of and reacted positively to.
But that positive view, Slabada says, must be assessed in conjunction with the fact that “two-thirds of the population are still inclined pessimistically about the economic situation and expect things to get worse.”